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Back to magnet schools

It’s Magent Awareness Week in HISD, and the Board of Trustees will be reviewing a new magnet school policy along the way.

A proposed new policy, released by HISD last week, calls for the creation of a new funding model for magnet schools and an accountability system that would give under-performing programs three years to improve before losing their status.

“It is not going to lay dormant for the entire year,” [HISD Board President Paula] Harris said of the proposed policy. “We are moving forward on magnets.”

While the district has some nationally renowned magnet campuses such as Carnegie Vanguard High School and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, others draw few applicants and are rated “academically unacceptable” by the state.

The proposed policy keeps with the current practice regarding entrance requirements. Elementary schools would admit students based on available space, although the magnet programs for gifted students, called Vanguard, still would have admissions standards. Middle and high schools could continue to have entrance requirements – a sticking point for some who believe the programs should be more open.

Lupita Hinojosa, HISD’s assistant superintendent of school choice, estimated that 2,000 parents attended the magnet fair Saturday, a good turnout that she attributes to better marketing and increased confidence in the school-choices model.

“Parents were very apprehensive last year because of the review going on,” Hinojosa said. “We know our board has to make changes and improvements, but our schools are continuing with their focus on instruction. I’ve had parents that are bringing their 1- and 2-year-olds ready to put them on a wait list. Unfortunately, we don’t start that early.”

See here, here, here, here, and here for some background. School Zone has a copy of the draft proposal. I agree with the basic principles that I see here. There should be enough space to accommodate everyone who qualifies. Programs should be spread around the district so that everyone has at least one choice near them. No magnet school should ever be rated unacceptable. Magnet schools are a success story for HISD. They need to get this right.

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